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16 October 2008 Edition

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'Don't dare screw us, Brian'

“DON’T dare screw us, Brian,” screamed the front page of Tuesday’s Star where it went on to define “us” as “the ordinary, hard-working people of this country”, presumably including Star editor Ger Colleran. Still, good strong stuff making the point that the financial crisis was created by “politicians, fat cat property developers, greedy bankers and incompetent financial watchdogs” and that these were the people Lenihan should target in the Budget.
Inside, the editorial turned slightly emotional, observing:
“We are a nation of democrats – a privilege hard won in bloody ditches from Cahirciveen to Belmullet, from Kilkishen [that’s in Clare by the way] to Kilmacud... [Lenihan] has the trust of the people of Ireland in his hands – he must not abuse it but treat it with the utmost respect and gratitude.” As Fianna Fáil has always done?
The privilege of democracy in this country was also hard won, it should be remembered, in equally bloody ditches from Lurgan to Loughgall and from Ardoyne to to Belleek. Quite what Clare ever did is a mystery to me.

SPEAKING of the North brings us to Peter Robinson, who was quoted in The Irish Times by Gerry Moriarty throwing a few digs at Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams on some DUPers not wanting to share power with nationalists.
“Gerry Adams’s comments are to be treated more in pity than in scorn. They betray a fundamentally sectarian mindset. Not only does he fail to comprehend that unionism is not a religion but that it is also possible to be a Roman Catholic and a unionist at the same time.”
Sure it is. That’s why Craigavon could say:
“All I boast is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state.” Or why Paisley could justify the burning out of nationalists by saying, “Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol  bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they  were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners.”
I don’t actually, as it happens, challenge Robinson’s assertion. It is possible to be a unionist and a Catholic from the city of Rome. Or even a Catholic from the Gold Coast. Protestants don’t have a monopoly on the reactionary, homophobic, racist, voodoo economic thinking of unionism. I’m just surprised to hear the DUP saying it when, for years, the party leader’s attitude to Catholics, whether Roman or otherwise, was that they were followers of the Anti-Christ and doomed, without exception, to the most fiery pits of Hell. A tricky matter, I suspect, to deal with at a DUP cumann meeting debating motions on the Clár ahead of their Ard Fheis.
Still, Paisley also said he would never go into coalition with Sinn Féin so maybe Robinson’s acceptance that Catholics now have the right to be unionists (their right to be nationalists being a step too far for now) should be applauded as another slow, gentle step in the onerous task of house-training Robinson and his Deliverance-style backroom team.


BACK to Southern Budget issues as I work the calculator to see how much worse off I am with a 1% Income Levy. Thanks, Brian. This ordinary worker certainly does feel screwed. Hitting people on the minimum wage and the hundreds of thousands on the average industrial wage to pay for mistakes from a banking sector still luxuriating in extremely low rates of tax is criminal.
As Paul Sweeney of ICTU pointed out:
“The Income Levy is a very inequitable tax because it will punish those at or under the average industrial wage of €34,000 much more severely than those at the upper end around €100,000.”
All this when even hard-line Maoist radicals like Garret FitzGerald have been converted to the notion of increasing taxes for the better-off.
“I have always believed,” wrote Garret in Saturday’s Times, despite having been silent on the issue until now, “that, while it was absolutely right to bring our top tax rate down from the very high level to which it was raised during the crisis of the 1980s, it was a mistake to bring it down as far as 42 per cent.
“And it was a blunder to reduce the higher rate further to 41 per cent just two years ago... There is currently room for some increase in this rate to help reduce the scale of borrowing.”
Yes, Garret, there is. Such an increase would have allowed Lenihan to alleviate the impact of the Income Levy, not necessarily a bad notion in principle depending on who was targeted. Or maybe have saved us the half percent increase in VAT.
Another missed opportunity.

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